General Interest News
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Prior to the 1st October 2015 there was no statutory requirement upon private landlords to install smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors in their properties. This has now changed, with the introduction of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 (“the Regulations”) which came into force on the 1st October 2015.
What do Landlords need to do?
Landlords will need to install a working smoke alarm on every storey of their properties that are being used for “living accommodation” and install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as “living accommodation” where solid fuel is being used.
Every landlord will need to have done this by the 1st October 2015 for existing tenancies and for all new tenancies starting after that date.
Landlords are responsible for ensuring that the alarms are working at the start of the tenancy. However, tenants are responsible for looking after them during the tenancy.
“Living accommodation” includes bathrooms and toilets, but it is uncertain at this stage as to whether or not it includes areas which are just used for storage like basements or lofts.
Solid fuel means coal or wood, not gas or oil. Although carbon monoxide alarms are recommended for rooms with gas or oil heating, the Regulations do not make it compulsory.
The Regulations do not apply to “live in” landlords, social landlords, HMO landlords (because they are subject to similar rules under the HMO Regulations) and landlords of leases with a term of 7 years or more.
Enforcement of the Regulations will be the responsibility of the local authority.
If a landlord is in breach of the Regulations, the local authority should issue a remedial notice requiring the landlord to fit the alarms within 28 days. The landlord must take all reasonable steps to comply. If the landlord fails to fit the alarms and has not taken all reasonable steps, then the local authority (subject to the tenants granting them access) can arrange for this work to be done and then serve a penalty notice on the landlord for a sum of up to £5,000.
If a landlord thinks that this is unfair he can ask for the notice to be reviewed and can also possibly appeal it.
Daven Naghen, head of our Litigation Team, has commented as follows:-
“From a health and safety point of view the Regulations obviously make good sense. Many responsible landlords will have been ensuring smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms have been installed in their properties prior to it becoming compulsory.”
If you are a landlord or a tenant requiring advice about smoke alarms and/or carbon monoxide alarms or any other issues relating to a tenancy agreement then please do not hesitate to contact Daven on 01775 722261 or email email@example.com or visit our offices or arrange an appointment at our offices at 23 New Road, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE11 1DH.
Maples Celebrate 25 Years Service from Yvonne
On Thursday 18th October 2013 Yvonne Chilvers reached the 25th anniversary of her starting work at Maples. For the vast majority of this time she has provided very able and invaluable support to David Hicken and the Commercial Property Team. In David’s own words “where would I have been without Yvonne?”.
We celebrated the landmark by having a small gathering in the boardroom, so that the Partners could hand to Yvonne a card and a present as a token of our appreciation for her lengthy and loyal service.
Well done Yvonne!
Exam Success for Jamie
After four years of continual and dedicated studying, Jamie Dobbs has achieved another distinction in her last CILEx exam meaning she is now a Graduate Member Legal Executive.
The course involved many different areas of law including Criminal, Employment, Law of Tort, Civil Litigation and Contract Law. However, Jamie then chose to specialise in Private Client Law which involved examinations in Wills and Succession, Probate, Equity and Trusts and Land Law. It is in this area of law where Jamie has worked since 2008.
Jamie has worked extremely hard in her own time whilst continuing to provide an outstanding service to her clients. All of her hard work and dedication was evidenced as she achieved ten distinctions and for two of those exams she was the only candidate in the country to achieve a distinction.
Jamie said of her success: “I would like to thank the members of Maples who showed great faith in me by allowing me to study on this course to qualify as a Legal Executive and for their support and encouragement. My colleagues have also been very supportive throughout my course and I would like to thank many of my clients for their encouragement and for their messages of good luck when exams were approaching”.
Jamie will continue to assist and advise clients with matters including creating Wills, administering Estates and creating Powers of Attorney amongst other things. To discuss any of these matters with Jamie or any member of the Probate Team, please telephone her on 01775 722261 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bianca’s Summary of Work Experience
I am called Bianca Chan from Spalding High School and I undertook work experience at Maples Solicitors for two weeks in March 2012.
My first impression was how friendly the staff are. Everyone greeted me with big smiles and reassuring handshakes, relieving the nerves I’d felt for the last month or so prior to work experience. I was also very impressed at how large the firm is: without a doubt very successful.
My friend and I were given the opportunity to look at files for criminal, family, commercial, will and probate law. All areas were very interesting, and the solicitors here are extremely organised. A broad range of topics were covered. Some cases, especially in criminal law, were very unique, nevertheless solved with great care by the solicitors.
As a young person, I had no idea how law worked. I am so grateful that we were given the opportunity to look up laws online and in law manuals, look through evidence and statements and listen to interviews. We also learnt about how property is bought and transferred, drafted a will and looked at how money and legacies were applied after one’s death. We had an insight to how couples divorced; the guidelines, splitting of money and property and concerns regarding the children.
The highlight of this experience was attending court. Not only did we go to the Magistrates Court, we also attended the Crown Court in Lincoln, which was a totally unforgettable place. I had seen some cases in court on TV or in films, but to actually be in a real Crown Court was surreal. Never had I experienced such formality too. Apart from observing how cases were presented, how lawyers argued and put across their view and how witnesses’ gave statements, we also saw how solicitors interacted with their defendants. Everything was professionally dealt with and I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of court.
Overall, Maples Solicitors gave me a very valuable experience with the world of law. I can not express how expert the team is. Thank you, Maples! If you need a solicitor, Maples is the place to go!
A Work Experience Student’s View of Maples by Harr
As a student of Spalding High School, I chose to do my Work Experience at Maples Solicitors LLP in Spalding. This Work Experience placement has given me a great insight into the world of Law, which is what I had hoped to achieve in coming here. I have learnt a great deal as a result of this placement and it has helped me to decide if I would like to study for a career in Law. This placement has been very beneficial for me. Not only has our time here been spent doing interesting and insightful tasks, such as reading through Murder files, but we have also had a chance to experience the atmosphere of a court in session and to witness how the Solicitors represent their clients before the magistrates.
We went to the Magistrates court in Spalding numerous times. Although the court is very formal and the proceedings follow strict rules, it was a very enjoyable and interesting insight into the world of being a Solicitor. Unfortunately, the court hearings weren’t as lively as they are portrayed to be on the TV, and there was no tangible feeling of nervousness hanging over the Defendants, but our court experiences were still interesting despite the lack of action.
The Criminal Law team At Maples Solicitors is comprised of three main people: Anita Toal, Daven Naghen and Claire Smith. They all have a very wide range of knowledge over many different types of Criminal Law (from theft to murder).
They are all very experienced and aim to provide you with support during your case and
will always be on call should you need their immediate assistance.
In the event that you need a trial hearing the solicitors will represent you. They will also see your witnesses.
The solicitors offer you a discrete and sensitive service, as well as strict confidentiality.
The Criminal Law team is experienced with dealing with allegations varying in severity.
Criminal prosecution develops through a strict set of stages, beginning with the arrest and ending either :before, during or after a trial. Throughout this process, all parties involved will feel stressed and will worry, as is only natural. The team fully understands that having to go to court, whether for a minor or serious crime, can be a very stressful and worrying time. As well as offering you advice on how to proceed or plead with your case, they also aim to provide you with support whilst explaining your situation in understandable terms.
New Rules on Residential Property Letting
New rules have come into effect on the 1st October 2015 regarding residential tenancies and in particular Section 21 Notices (notice requiring possession of an assured shorthold tenancy).
The changes are a combination of the Deregulation Act 2015 and the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Notice and Prescribed Requirements (England) Regulations 2015.
These changes will apply to all new assured shorthold tenancies in England starting on or after the 1st October 2015 and then by October 2018 to all assured shorthold tenancies in England. By new that means new and not for example a statutory periodic tenancy arising on or after the 1st October 2015 but it does include a replacement/renewal tenancy (i.e. a fresh assured shorthold tenancy) granted on or after the 1st October 2015.
Section 21 Notices and Time Limits
The main changes to the rules on Section 21 Notices are as follows:-
(i) There is no need for any Section 21 Notice to expire on the last date of a period of a tenancy. Two months notice is all that is required. To accompany this is the requirement to repay the tenant pro-rata the “unused” proportion of any rent paid in advance when the Section 21 Notice expires in the course of a rent period and the tenant leaves.
(ii) It will not be possible to give a Section 21 Notice in the first four months of a tenancy. In the case of replacement tenancies (a new tenancy with the same parties and same premises as the previous tenancy) the relevant period is four months from the date on which the original tenancy began. This will not be applicable to statutory periodic tenancies.
(iii) A possession claim must be commenced within six months of the service of the Section 21 Notice. For Section 21(4)(a) Notices, e.g. statutory periodic tenancy cases – the relevant period is four months from the date of expiry of the Notice.
Prescribed Legal Requirements
Under the new rules, Section 21 Notices can not be validly given unless:-
(i) The tenant has been provided with the Energy Performance Certificate (“EPC”) for the property. This probably has to be served before the commencement of the tenancy – but it might be possible to serve it after the start. Clarity on this point is still required.
(ii) The tenant has been provided with the current Gas Safety Certificate (“GSC”). There does not appear to be a requirement to provide it within 28 days of the inspection but the rules appear to suggest the tenant should be provided with the latest report before a commencement of the tenancy.
Under the new rules Section 21 Notices can not be validly given unless the tenant has been given the prescribed information. The prescribed information is the Department for Communities and Local Government booklet (“How to Rent: A check list for renting in England”).
However the rules appear here to be a little bit complicated. The landlord does not have to provide a further copy whenever the booklet is updated, during the course of the tenancy. However where a “new” replacement tenancy has been granted (including possibly a statutory periodic tenancy) there is no requirement to give a further copy unless a new version of the booklet has come out before the first day of the new tenancy. A landlord is therefore going to have to keep up to speed with the changes with the booklet or else run the risk of falling foul of these provisions.
Retaliatory eviction is the practice carried out by some landlords of serving a Section 21 Notice in order to evict tenants when the tenants ask for repair/remedial work to be undertaken to the property. Under previous legislation, provided the Section 21 Notice was in proper form, validly served etc then the tenant had no defence to avoiding eviction here. The tenant could not argue that he should not be evicted because say the property had not been in an habitable condition. The new rules change things. The substance of these rules is as follows:-
(i) Where any inspection notice has been served by the local authority, or it has carried out emergency remedial action, the landlord will not be able to give a Section 21 Notice for six months; and
(ii) If before a Section 21 Notice is given a tenant makes a complaint about the condition of the property is writing, then the landlord will have fourteen days within which to respond by setting out what he intends to do and the time frame. If the landlord fails to reply, or replies by way of serving a Section 21 Notice or by way of an inadequate reply then the tenant may complain to the local authority who may wish to inspect the property. If the local authority then serves an Improvement Notice or carries out emergency remedial action any Section 21 Notice already served will be rendered ineffective and no further notice can be served for six months.
Head of our Property Litigation Team, Daven Naghen, has considered these new provisions and says as follows:-
“The rules have added complexities/burdens to the landlord’s cause that are likely to trip up a number of landlords and lead to invalid/ineffective Section 21 Notices being served.
It is inevitable that many landlords will get caught out by the need to provide an EPC and GSC arguably before the tenant moves in. The How to Rent booklet rules are fraught with danger for the landlord. I am sure that landlords will fail to keep up with the new editions being published and the need to serve the new editions when there is a new tenancy (including possibly a statutory periodic tenancy). Surely this could have been a “once only” provision?
The new provisions on Section 21 Notices make it impossible for a Section 21 Notice to expire on the last day of a six month fixed term as it can not be served within the first four months and two month’s notice must be given.
The time limit on using the Section 21 Notice for an order from the Court for a Possession Order or else losing it will not help landlords who are used to letting a Section 21 Notice hang over a tenant’s head for some time.
As for the retaliatory eviction provisions the whole process is effectively reliant upon the local authority. If the local authority does not serve the appropriate notice, then the landlord can get away with the retaliatory eviction. I can well foresee over-worked and under-resourced local authorities not being able to cope with the demand and act as required by a tenant. Furthermore will tenants bombard local authorities with spurious claims in order to try and defeat a Section 21 Notice? I am sure, rightly or wrongly, landlords will now face more complaints about the condition of their properties.
Overall I am sure that the new rules are going to lead to more contested Section 21 claims, negating the advantages of the accelerated possession proceedings process. Courts are probably going to have to deal with a whole new raft of defended Section 21 claims.”
If you need help and advice on these new rules, or anything to do with a residential tenancy (either as a tenant or a landlord or landlord’s agent) then please contact Daven on 01775 722261 or email email@example.com or visit our offices or arrange an appointment at 23 New Road, Spalding, Lincolnshire, PE11 1DH.